The Wheels on the Bus, Continued
And now there's this.
It's about time, too.
Yes, Eagles' QB Donovan McNabb did speak out yesterday about the remarks his teammate (and holdout) Terrell Owens made regarding Owens' value to the team and McNabb's performance late in the fourth quarter in the Super Bowl. McNabb clearly didn't appreciate being thrown under the bus, as it were, and he came out and hit that issue head on. He's asserting his rightful authority as the leader of the team, albeit a bit late, as Owens made his comments a few months ago.
So now you have a perceived public feud between the star QB and the star WR, as well as unhappy players in DT Corey Simon (unhappy with the Franchise Player tag and an offer for a one-year $5.1 million contract -- he should trade notes with Seattle OT Walter Jones, who lived under the Franchise Player tag for at least three seasons before inking his big deal this past off-season), aging DT Hollis Thomas (unlike Simon, he's at mini-camp, but he's unhappy with his contract), RB Brian Westbrook (who, along with his agent, believes that he is one of the top 5 RBs in all of football and therefore deserves equivalent pay) and WR Freddie Mitchell, whose histrionics outweigh his ability and whom Coach Reid told to stay away from the recent minicamp.
Is there a problem with the bus? Are the wheels falling off?
No. A few years ago, right at the season's outset, the New England Patriots jettisoned popular safety Lawyer Milloy. They promptly laid a big egg in their season opener, against Buffalo (where Milloy had signed). The professional and amateur pundits were out in full force, questioning Coach Bill Belichick's decision-making, that he was dismantling a very capable defense, and that the loss of the popular Milloy would help unravel the strong Patriot defense. Instead, the Patriots up and won their second Super Bowl. And, this past season, their third in four years.
Teams at the summit will always have some of these issues, if for no other reason than success suggests that those who contribute to it are entitled to a bigger piece of the pie. Simon wants a better deal, as does Westbrook. As for the former, he is a good DT, a good teammate, but prone to disappearing at times. The Eagles wanted to sign him to a longer-term deal, but apparently the sides cannot agree on Simon's value. As for the latter, he is a keystone to the Eagles' offense, but he's on the small side, and while a very good player he's not a top-5 running back. What makes it worse for Westbrook is that free agent RBs Edgerring James and Shaun Alexander have found no takers, and many good RBs will become free agents after this season. While it's key to have good players at the skill positions, it seems that the conventional wisdom in NFL front offices is that you can find good RBs the way you can find good offensive linemen -- in later rounds and not always in the first round (Denver makes the best case for this argument, with the way that they develop running backs). As for Hollis Thomas, he's at the end of his career, had missed a few seasons to injury, and should be happy to be where he is. As for Freddie Mitchell, he should pack his suitcase -- assuming someone else wants him.
The biggest problem is Owens, his holdout, and whether he's reverted to the T.O.-type of behavior that had people initially question whether he would be welcome in Philadelphia in the first place and whether he could sacrifice his ego to help create a Super Bowl champion. No one can question his ability, his work ethic or his heart -- his actions (both as a cheerleader in the NFC champion game and on the field in the Super Bowl) have spoken loudly -- he answered those questions in a very positive way. But now he's opened his mouth again.
Actions do speak louder than words, but words, spoken at a distance, through third parties, can create locker room fractures that are harder to heal than those created in some sadistic drill run by an SEC coach in the 1950's. Bones can be set; it's not clear what can be done with high-level psyches.
Except that they always seem to heal, and that words can be taken back, set straight or apologized for in ways that cracks in vertebrae and femurs cannot. There is still plenty of time to heal this mess in Philadelphia, and it's probably the biggest one that the Eagles need to heal.
He'll be back, perhaps not in training camp, but in time for the season's opener on that first Monday night in Atlanta, in time for the bright lights.
But without a new deal.